Duminy sets up Cobras' shock win
The Cobras registered an amazing come-from-behind victory over the Lions as the Potchefstroom pitch made a remarkable recovery from its ill-form on the first two days. JP Duminy, the left-hander who is widely regarded as one of South Africa's brightest batting talents, converted his immense promise into tangible destruction as his century saw the Cobras chase down 355 to beat the Lions by five wickets.
The Cobras' second innings of 358 for 5, built on Duminy's elegant 115 and 96 from Henry Davids (the competition's leading run-scorer), was all the more impressive after were skittled for just 80 in their first innings.
The Cobras won the toss and sent the Lions in to bat first on a saucy pitch, thanks to a cold front that had swathed neighbouring Gauteng in rain for three days. After an opening stand of fifty between Blake Snijman and Alviro Petersen, Monde Zondeki made excellent use of the conditions, swinging the ball wildly to take 5 for 55 - his fifth five-for of the tournament - and the Lions were bowled out for 181.
The Cobras' reply lasted a mere 22.5 overs though, with Friedel de Wet (3 for 23), Garnett Kruger (4 for 27) and Heinrich le Roux (3 for 7) sharing the wickets in a fine bowling display. Vernon Philander top-scored for the Cobras with 23 not out, but he was to play an even bigger role when he took the new ball for the Lions' second innings. Swinging the ball beautifully, Philander took 7 for 64 as the Lions were bowled out for 253, setting the stage for Duminy's majestic, match-winning century.
Although the Cobras were celebrating their second successive win, the Eagles are still the undisputed kings of the competition, enjoying a 20-point lead over second-placed Dolphins. The Eagles had the better of their match against the Warriors in Port Elizabeth, which was ruined by the arrival of rain on the final day. The Warriors batted first and posted a fairly adequate 279, thanks to Zander de Bruyn's 111 and Davey Jacobs' 61. A hesitant batting display by the Eagles saw them slip to 245 all out, with Dean Elgar scoring 63 and Boeta Dippenaar and Ryan Bailey falling just short of half-centuries. Juan Theron, the fast bowler, was the most took 3 for 41.
The Eagles then took control, however, when the Warriors slumped to 195 all out in their second innings. Johan Botha was the only top-order batsman to shine, scoring 51, a score which Mario Olivier matched in the tail. Olivier, of course, is the bowler who came to prominence by taking all 10 wickets in an innings against the Eagles in Bloemfontein at the start of last month. It left the Eagles with a target of 230 to win and a full day in which to get it, but they could only reach 42 without loss before rain washed out play.
The Titans and the Dolphins were also forced into a draw as rain washed out the first two days of their match in Benoni and only 190.4 overs were possible overall. The Dolphins, sent in to bat, crashed to 45 for 6 but Daryn Smit, the wicketkeeper, and 17-year-old Khayelihle Zondo were not numbed by the crisis and added 64 as the Dolphins eventually reached 190.
Smit tore into the Titans bowlers in his unbeaten 89, while Zondo's debut was a big plus as he scored a gutsy 25 against the defending champions in two-and-a-half hours at the crease. The Titans enjoyed batting practice in their innings, but Farhaan Behardien and Albie Morkel answered the match's dying request with some excitement, scoring fluent unbeaten half-centuries as they added 117 runs in 31 overs to take them to 299 for 6 at the close. The most important thing to come out of the match was that Morne Morkel, eyeing a return to international action after a stress fracture of the foot, was able to get through 16 overs, taking 2 for 48.
Player of the week
JP Duminy has enjoyed the occasional insert into international action this summer, appearing in five one-day internationals, without doing anything wrong. But the 23-year-old has yet to have any chance in Tests as other batsmen like Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla and Neil McKenzie have been ahead of him in the queue.
But he ensured his name will still be on the national selectors' lips with a match-winning century over the weekend for the Cobras. The selectors will be especially impressed because his 115 not out, a 265-minute innings of immense willpower and class, took the Cobras to a daunting victory target of 355 after they had been dismissed for just 80 in their first innings.
The run-chase will be remembered for a long time by local supporters, but pundits have predicted that Duminy will enjoy a long and successful career in the international limelight. The left-hander has a classic technique with the touch of a surgeon. The cover drive is the stroke he plays most elegantly, but the short ball holds few terrors for him either.